Just got back from a 2 1/2 week trip to Argentina. I travelled with my 9 year old daughter and my cousin. The excuse for the trip was a family wedding, but since we were going to make the long trip from California, we decided to see other sites while we were there.
I used Manuela at Argentina Con Noi as my travel agent (www.argentinaconnoi.com). She did an excellent job. No major hitches. In some cases, we were booked into hotels that were a little farther from the town centers than I would have liked, but I'm sure that if you request more centraly located hotels (and are willing to pay for them), she will accommodate your requests. If you e-mail her, give her a couple days to respond. She will get back to you, and while you are in Argentina, she will give you her cell number so that she can be reached at any time. Took Aerolineas on all internal flights with no major delays (maybe an hour at most but that's no different than my experiences on many US flights). Only major delay was on United on the flight back to the US.
Arrived in BA mid-day, checked into the hotel (Broadway Suites), then went on a private whistle stop tour of the City just to see the highlights. Great fun. Had ice cream at Freddo's which was a BIG hit with my 9 year old.
Early the next morning, we flew to Trelew and were picked up for a trip to Punta Tombo to see the penguins. This was probably my favorite moment of the trip. Hundreds ofthousands of penguins with their chicks all within feet of you. Also saw guanacos. On to Gaiman for tea. Interesting, but I probably would have traded the trip to Gaiman for more time with the penguins. Spent the night in Puerto Madryn (Hotel Costa del Sol). The hotel was spotless but was a little farther from the town center than I would have hoped.
Next day went to the Pennisula Valdes. Took a boat ride hoping to see whales. No whales spotted but my daughter thought the boat ride was a blast and we saw seals and some interesting bird life. Then went farther out on the Pennisula Valdes to see the elephant seals. It was horribly windy that day and the blowing sand made the seal viewing very uncomfortable.
Flew next day to El Calafate. Loved the town. Stayed at Hotel Lar Aike. Again, a very nice hotel, but it was about 1 km from the town center. Normally this would not have been too much of an issue, but we were there over Christmas when cabs were impossible to find, so it meant a lot of walks back and forth into town. Went on the "All Glaciers" tour on Xmas Eve day and on a tour of the Perito Moreno glacier on Xmas day. Both fantastic. My daughter decided that she was the modern day equivalent of Ansel Adams and took roughly 500 digital photos of the glaciers and icebergs. I had to have her memory card downloaded onto a CD in town. We also did a half day at Estancia Nibepo. It's a lovely setting. We took a one hour horseback ride, saw a sheep shearing demonstration and had a fantastic lunch.
We had our best and worst meals of the trip in El Calafate. The best was a birthday dinner I had at Casimir & Bigua (sp?) on the main street and the worst was on Christmas Eve at Los Amigos just off the main street (recommended by our hotel). The meal at Los Amigos as a meal to remember but not in a good way. It goes down with a meal at a hotel in Seville Spain in 1982 and a meal I had in Venice in 1993 as one of the worst three travel meals I have ever had (or not had as the case may be). All involved pasta -- go figure.
Next stop was Mar del Plata for my cousin's wedding. We stayed at the Sheraton. Very nice. Exactly what you would expect from a Sheraton. The wedding was lovely and we had a good time. The Argentines adore MDP, but I have to confess that the charms of MDP were lost on me. I will admit that I probably didn't take full advantage of the many attractions of MDP because we were incredibly busy with wedding activities and a lot of its charms apparently are related to an active night life -- which given the fact that I was travelling with a 9 year old, were not a viable option for me. I also must admit that when it comes to beaches I am hugely spoiled, having been to some really spectacular beaches in other parts of the world. The one in MDP is nice, but crowded and nothing memorable.
After the wedding, we headed to Iguazu. Stayed at the Hotel St. Geaorge. Very convenient location, nice pool, but the air conditioning was erratic. Went to the Argentine side of the falls. Fantastic! Did the boat ride at the bottom of the falls. We got soaked. My daughter loved it until she had to climb about 200 steps out of the gorge at the end of the ride. At the bottom of the gorge after the boat ride, I was the best mother in the world. By the time we had climbed the steps out of the gorge, I was evil personified.
We had originally intended to go to the Brazilian side of the falls the next day, but we did not have visas, and after weighing the risks of going without a visa and the hassle and costs of getting a visa, we decided not to go. In any event, it gave us an excellent excuse to have a day where we did nothing but hang out by the pool at the hotel. We really needed the rest.
Final stop was BA. Stayed at the Broadway Suites just steps away from the Obelisk. Although the area is lacking in charm, it is incredibly convenient. The hotel is just steps away from the major hub of the Subte. It's also a great place to stay with a kid. Most rooms are 2 room suites which allowed me to put her to bed while I did chores in the other room. There's also a small pool on the roof which is a bonus if you're travelling with a kid.
On arrival in BA, we strolled on Avenida Florida for a while, which I despised (too crowded and lined with stores full of junk). Stopped for ice cream at Freddo which we loved. Then walked to Puerto Madero where we had dinner on the deck of a nice restaurant facing the water. Next day we went to Recoleta Cemetary which my daughter loved. She spent her time running around taking pictures (again!) of all the feral cats that live there and counting them in Spanish. Walked from the cemetary to MALBA which, to my surprise, my daughter really liked. On the way, we also counted the many dogs we saw in Espanol. Then on to the Japanese Garden and the Jardin Zoologico. Both big hits with the kid. We were blessed that day with perfect walking weather. Breezy and about 70 degrees. Back to the hotel for a swim, then off to Michelangelo for dinner and a tango show. Good --but not great -- show and meal.
Final day started with a walk through the Costanera Sur Ecological Preserve. Nice trails, but it was pretty warm and by the end my daughter was pretty cranky. My maternal standing, however, was redeemed at our next stop in the Abasto shopping center. My daughter correctly called it a kid's paradise. We spent most of our time there at the fantastic Children's Museum. (And in this arena, I know of what I speak because we live in the SF Bay area where there are also some really excellent children's museums. This one ranks right up there among the best.) Thanks to a lengthy flight delay, we had time for one last dinner in BA before heading to the airport at midnight for our trip home. Of course, we missed our connection in Dulles and had to wait there for 8 hours to get a new connection. Door to door our trip home was an exhausting 31 hours.
All in all, we had an excellent trip and were very pleased with the arrangements made by Manuela. I would highly recommend Argentina as a travel destination for families with kids. The people are friendly (and they were very tolerant -- almost appreciative -- of my rudimentary Spanish skills). The food was great (my kid loves steak and pasta, so every meal -- even the one a Los Amigos -- got a thumbs up from her), and the sights are amazing. Just go. You'll have a fantastic time.